Hyperthermia occurs when an individual has a high body temperature of at least 104 degrees F. Severe hyperthermia can reach as high as 108 degrees F. The condition occurs when the body can no longer release heat by the usual methods of sweating, breathing, and blood flow to the skin. For example, if a person is working out on a hot, humid day or sitting in a hot room, perspiration may accumulate on the skin. The sweat must evaporate for cooling to take place. If the temperature outside the body is hotter or more humid, the sweat can't evaporate, and the internal organs start to heat up. This can lead to very serious symptoms and even be fatal. Older adults, very young children, and those with compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable to the dangers of hyperthermia.
In addition to the environment, heat illness can be brought on by dehydration, wearing clothing that traps perspiration, and drinking alcohol. Layers of tight, heavy clothing should not be worn for exercise. People who are not used to hot and humid conditions are also more prone to heat illness, especially if they exercise vigorously.
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